Carrie's Kitchen: Appreciative of appetizers

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I don't think I have ever been more excited for a Thanksgiving. The closest I've come to being this excited was during the college years when I was tired of dining hall food and looking forward to a feast of home cooking for the holidays.
But no, even dining hall food blues did not come close to building up the excitement I'm feeling this year, which will be my son Rye's first Thanksgiving, and celebrated at my mother-in-law's house with all of our family there - all his grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even his first cousin, who is just six weeks old. What a blessing!
Rye is a great eater, even eating spinach, beets and cauliflower - a vegetable I'm not particularly fond of but realize it's something I should try to get my son to accept early on. He has recently been a little picky about parsnips, but if I mask them with enough sweetness - from butternut squash or a fruit - he will eat them readily. I can't even get my husband to eat parsnips.
Often Rye's foods are a mixed bowl, such as tomato and spinach with rice cereal, but for his first Thanksgiving, I want to let him eat all of his foods separately on a plate like the grown-ups. Maybe I'll even mush up some turkey so he can try his first meat on this momentous occasion!
This holiday will be more about family than food, as more of our siblings get married and start spending holidays with their new in-laws. So in order to focus on family this year, we decided to keep the meal simple. Not all the favorites have to be there, and each person was only asked to bring one dish (though I'm not sure everyone is going to stick with that). I'm officially making the crispy kale (with Gruyere) that I shared the recipe for last week, and unofficially bringing a chocolate pear cake because I think my brother and I will be the only ones to enjoy it, and we don't get together as often as I would like.
But as for this week's recipes, I'm going back to my theme of foods that I am thankful for. This week I'm kind of cheating - I'm going with appetizers. Appetizers can cover all the food groups, they come in small portions, they can be decadent or healthy and they're fun.
My favorite time to have appetizers is when my husband and I go on bed and breakfast vacations, where you eat this great big breakfast that keeps you full until well after noon, then we have a late lunch, and by dinner time, are only slightly hungry, so we just go out for drinks and appetizers instead of dinner.
I also like parties that just have appetizers, though the hearty kind. I won't touch a veggie platter until I start feeling guilty for eating the heavy stuff. But it's all about portion control, and I find that pretty easy when you use a plate, fill it with what you are going to allow yourself to eat, and then call it quits after you finish your plate.
So here are three appetizer recipes that I think would be great party food, though maybe a little too filling to be eaten pre-meal.
Enjoy, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Bacon-wrapped chorizo stuffed dates
3 ounces chorizo, (fresh sausage, not dried)
2 ounces cream cheese
12 Medjool dates, seeded
6 strips of thin-slice bacon
12 toothpicks

Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, and brown the chorizo. Drain off any extra grease and mash the chorizo with the cream cheese using a fork or the back of a spoon.
Spoon the chorizo mixture into the dates, packing all the filling into them.
Sear the bacon on each side in a skillet. Remove the bacon from the pan and slice in half lengthwise.
Wrap each date with 1 strip of bacon and secure it with a toothpick. At this point, you can refrigerate these for a couple of days.
When you're ready to serve, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place your dates in an ovenproof container and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Start checking the dates at 8 minutes if they aren't refrigerated.
Source: http://gi365.info


Spiced pork in Parmesan cups
1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan
1 pound ground pork
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon parsley
1 (13.5-ounce) can tomato sauce
Salt and pepper
2 cups arugula leaves
Mini-tartlet pan

To make cups: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. With a pencil, lightly draw 3-inch circles on the parchment. Spread 2 teaspoons of grated Parmesan to fill each circle.
Bake for 2-3 minutes or until just lightly golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool 1-2 minutes. To make bowls, carefully lift each warm circle off the parchment with a spatula and press into a mini-tartlet pan to form a cup.
Allow them to cool.
To make filling: In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, saute pork and onion, breaking up with the side of a spoon to make a small crumble. Add oregano, basil, parsley and continue until pork is cooked through. Stir in tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble: Into each Parmesan cup, add a few arugula leaves and top with a tablespoon of pork mixture.
Source: http://eatineatout.ca/spiced-pork-in-parmesan-cups/

Cheesy bacon popovers
6 slices bacon
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
¾ cup shredded cheese (any variety)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon Herbs de Provence
Cayenne (optional)

Cook the bacon in a pan. Reserve the drippings and crumble the bacon.
In a large pitcher, whisk together the eggs, milk, bacon grease and flour. Mix in the cheese and seasonings, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a mini muffin tin in the oven and heat.
Remove the tin from the oven and pour the batter in the pan, filling each cup. Optional: sprinkle the tops with cayenne pepper. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden. Enjoy warm.
Source: http://www.zestuous.com

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